My first boat: everything I need to know

Un bateau à moteur est amarré à un quai

Daydreaming about owning a boat? We totally get it! Boating gives you a completely different feeling of freedom. Sailing under the sun, with your hair blowing in the wind, is a great way to spend a summer! Remember, this isn’t a spur-of-the-moment purchase. Here are a few tips to help you find the boat of your dreams and enjoy it for as long as possible.

How much does a boat cost?

Good question! When it comes to boats, there are as many options as there are price points. Start by deciding whether you want to buy new or used. Naturally, a new boat costs more, but it comes with less maintenance. A used one is less expensive, but be sure to have it inspected by an independent expert before you buy.

You also need to decide what you want to use it for. A fishing boat doesn’t cost the same as a sailboat. When it comes to finding a boat that meets your needs, think long term. Size and equipment will also affect the price.

The cost of a boat is not limited to its initial purchase price. After buying it, you can expect to have regular expenses, like:

  • Pleasure craft licence
  • Winter storage
  • Safety equipment (replacement)
  • Marina fees
  • Annual maintenance (like any other vehicle)
  • Repairs
  • Inspections
  • Accessories (water-skis, inner tubes, etc.)
  • Fuel
  • All other optional equipment

Last but not least, insurance.

Insuring your boat

First of all, you should know that boat insurance isn’t required by law. Yes, it’s true! That said, if you're financing your boat, then your creditor may require you to insure it. If you were buying a vehicle of that value, you’d insure it, wouldn’t you? After all, a boat is property just like a car or a house.

Insuring your boat means protecting it against damage as well as theft. It also covers your civil liability in the event that you unintentionally cause damage to another boat or injury to other people. A number of additional coverage options are also available.

Maintaining your boat

Keeping your boat in good condition requires regular maintenance. First, clean the outside. It’ll keep it looking brand new and help you save on other maintenance and repair costs. Did you know that a dirty, poorly waxed hull can increase fuel consumption by 30%? All the more reason to scrub it clean! And since a boat never stays completely dry during outings, it's important to wash everything made of canvas (e.g. roofs, covers, sails). Washing them in soapy water also prevents mildew. As for vinyl or PVC, forget bleach! It could cause them to crack.

Your boat also needs annual mechanical maintenance. Ideally, you should do this every season before taking it out for the first time. As with your car, change the oil regularly. Check the fuel and electrical systems. Inspect the safety equipment (alarm, fire extinguisher, etc.).

If you own a sailboat, be sure to regularly clean and wax the hull. Examine the rigging yourself, if you can, or call on the experts. As soon as you start sailing, watch the sails! Make sure they aren’t flapping violently in the wind. Take care not to over-tighten them, which could tear the seams. And, as with everything else, rinse them regularly and put them away when you’re done using your boat.

Preparing it for winter storage

After a long summer on the water, it's time to store your boat for the winter. Several storage options are available. It's up to you to decide which one works for you. The best is an air-conditioned storage warehouse. However, this option is rather expensive. A more affordable way to protect your boat during the off season is dry stack storage. Many dealers and marinas offer this service, which includes shrink wrapping. Find out more!

Other steps are required to prepare your boat for long months of downtime. Start with a thorough cleaning, inside and out. Inspect all equipment on board, and make sure to drain all the water from the hull.

As for the motor, whether inboard or outboard, there are several things to check. There are plenty of checklists (This hyperlink will open in a new tab) (French only) to help you winterize your boat available online.

When it comes to buying and maintaining your first boat, there's a lot you need to know! Start by identifying your needs and then, find marinas and dealerships who can help you. Plus, solutions are available online. Don't hesitate to ask for advice. And don’t forget to take out insurance in case of damage, accident or theft. Have a great summer, captain!